The Horrifying World of Darren O'Shaughnessy

Posted on August 30, 2007

The Telegraph (U.K.) interviews bestselling children's horror writer Darren O'Shaughnessy, author of the 12-volume vampire series that began with Cirque Du Freak. His new 10 volume series is called Demonata. O'Shaughnessy discusses his surprise that there wasn't more outrage from parents over his gruesome tales.

What makes O'Shaughnessy's stories truly distinctive, however, is that the gruesome and the macabre are being served up to a playground audience. If you have children, there is a very strong possibility that, at some point, their noses will be jammed in one of Shan's brain-squishing, maggot-swarming narratives.

"When the books were first published, I expected a backlash," says O'Shaughnessy disarmingly. "I ran all the arguments for the defence through my head in case of hostile interviewers - ready to explain why the books aren't a disgrace, that they had a strong moral underpinning. But in fact, there wasn't any outrage. No one, save the occasional parent or teacher, was up in arms at all. In fact, teachers and librarians have very often championed my books."

But then O'Shaughnessy is aware that his young protaganists - the teenage "Grubbs" Grady and "Darren Shan" - are actually following in a grand literary tradition. As long as there has been gruesome sensationalist fiction, there have been young readers lapping it up.

For Jane Austen's generation, it was Ann Radcliffe's The Mysteries of Udolpho and Matthew Lewis's The Monk. Austen satirised the trappings of Gothic romance in Northanger Abbey. In the age of the Victorian periodical, teenage boys loved lurid Gothic serials such as Varney the Vampyre and The String of Pearls.

What O'Shaughnessy doesn't realize is that parents today are so excited that their kids are actually reading a book that they aren't concerned about the gore. After all, good always wins over evil in the books. At least they're not playing Grand Theft Auto on their computers.

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